Legislative Update with Tony Lyren
Mar 01, 2021
Time for another legislative update from Pierre.
The bills are moving fast and furious now with crossover day occurring on February 25th. Crossover day is the last day a bill is introduced in either chamber can be heard in that chamber. Over the last couple weeks, there have been several bills of interest in agriculture.
SB 127 would have required grain moisture probes to be inspected by the Department of Weights and Measures. Proponents explained how moisture can vary greatly from elevator to elevator and cost a producer a lot of money in drying fees. Opponents argued that they already do in house inspections on this equipment and that the federal standard for moisture probes allows for half a percent of variance. They also stressed that if a producer disagrees with the elevator sample, they can send it to Aberdeen Grain Inspection and the elevator will honor the results of from there. The bill died in the Senate Ag committee 4-2 despite two amendments aimed at appeasing the opponents.
HB 1140 would require conservation officers such as game wardens to obtain permission before entering private land. This would not apply if a warden had probable cause that a crime had been or was being committed on the property. This bill stems from a situation West River that caused a rift between Game Fish, and Parks and several landowners. It passed through the House Ag committee and the House Floor with moderate resistance. It will be heard in Senate Judiciary on March 2nd. I had some thoughts on this bill and reached out to my local representatives and some of the Senate committee members from other parts of the state. Most responded and were receptive to my opinions and I was able to have some meaningful discussion with them.
SB 147 would have required certain inspection records of the Department of Ag to be open to the public. This has become an issue with the growing number of specialty crop producers throughout the state who have had problems with pesticide drift. Proponents argued that these records should be able to be subpoenaed, but current law did not allow for this. Opponents argued that certain information gathered by these investigations should not be open to the public and that the Department of Ag does get subpoenaed for this information already. The bill died in committee 4-2.
HB 1228 clarifies some of the provisions regarding the new industrial hemp industry, streamlining things for seed salespeople and growers. It would remove the 60-day window for application for a license to grow hemp, change the acre minimum from five to one half of an acre, and allow for indoor greenhouse production of hemp. It would also take away the “unrestricted access without prior notice” from the Department of Ag, requiring them to notify a grower prior to inspection. Most of the changes here were requested by the USDA. This seemed to be a common-sense clean up bill, but there was some opponent testimony from the Department of Ag and Highway Patrol. The Department of Ag stated that the shift to a lower minimum acreage will make inspection more difficult and expensive. They were also concerned with the definition of “indoor greenhouse,” pointing out that the industrial hemp could potentially be grown in personal residences. The Highway Patrol argued that it is too early in the hemp program to be changing the rules and that at this time it will be confusing to distinguish between industrial hemp and marijuana. It passed through committee 10-1 and the House proper 58-11. It will be heard in Senate Ag Committee on March 2nd.
As you can tell, it is difficult to follow such a large volume of bills. If there is anything you want me to check on, let me know.